The Natural and Economic Resources section of the Senate Budget does not make any major positive changes to address the environmental or economic challenges facing the state. The level of support for struggling rural communities remains largely unchanged from last year, appropriations for small business services offered through The Support Center would be eliminated, and a number of vacant environmental oversight and enforcement positions would be cut. Despite some additional funds for specific areas of need, the overall budget will not level the economic playing field or ensure that North Carolinians are protected from environmental hazards.
Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Increased funding for forest fire equipment purchases: $3 million in additional non-recurring appropriation to Forest Service to purchase airplane and heavy forest fighting equipment, bringing total FY 2016-17 appropriation to $39.1 million.
- Increase export marketing of NC agricultural products: Transfers $180,000 from Swine Waste Fund, and appropriates $500,000 in non-recurring funds to Marketing Division to promote North Carolina agricultural products overseas.
- Increases funding for military buffer land purchases: $1 million increase to Farmland Preservation Trust Fund to purchase lands surrounding military bases, bringing total FY 2016-17 appropriation to $3.6 million.
Department of Environmental Quality
- Eliminates several vacant positions: Several positions that are currently vacant are eliminated.
- Transfers funds from Mercury Pollution Prevention Account to Division of Waste Management: $2.5 million in existing balance in the Mercury Pollution Prevention Account is used to offset reduced General Fund appropriation to the Division of Waste Management.
Department of Environmental and Natural Resources
- Restores various fee and tax transfers following continuation review: Funds transferred to the Division of Air Quality, Water and Air Quality Account, Commercial Leaking and Underground Storage Tank Fund, and Boating Safety Account are restored following a continuation review
Department of Commerce
- Eliminates funding for the Support Center: Eliminates all $2.5 million in state funding for the Support Center, which provides loans and assistance to small business. House budget had continued state support for the Support Center.
- Johnston County public infrastructure for economic development: Appropriates $6 million in non-recurring funds to support public infrastructure and wastewater treatment facilities. Funds limited to use in support of economic development projects in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and telecommunications industries located in the Johnston County Research and Training Zone. Generally, appropriations with this level of specificity about eligible uses are targeted for an already identified economic development project.
- Increases funds to promote the High Point Market: Increases recurring state appropriations to the High Point Market Authority by $400,000, bringing total state appropriation for FY2016-17 to $1.6 million.
Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
- Increases funding for Clean Water Management Trust Fund: Budgets $5 million in additional non-recurring funds, bringing the trust fund total FY 2016-17 appropriation to $18.8 million.
- Zoo and Aquarium Funds: Establishes a $1.5 million transfer from the General Fund to the Zoo Fund, and $2.8 million to the Aquarium Fund.